On the wall in the office of Mt. Hood Community College President Dr. Debra Derr, there's a sign that reads:
From her desk, Derr can clearly read the message. She sees it every day that she's at MHCC, and even when she's not at the college she thinks about what it means. It's provided inspiration and direction – not only for her, but for the entire college.
“We started with, ‘What is the vision?’” she said. “That's what people talked about when I first came here – what is it that's going to take us from a good college to a great college.”
“We took that sign to every community meeting, to every school board meeting, to every neighborhood meeting we went to,” Derr added. “It was the question we asked people, and it helped them to imagine what our college would be like.”
During those early days of Derr's presidency, MHCC was in the middle of developing a strategic plan for the next six years and beyond. Creating and presenting that plan helped reconnect the college to the community, said Derr. And throughout her five
years at MHCC, she's focused on revitalizing that connection.
“It gave us a chance to be back out with the people we serve and to reconnect with people who have supported our college for so many years,” said Derr. “For me, it was a joy, because I knew many of those people from when I was here previously. Bringing
the college back into their lives was something I’m very proud of.”
That reconnection to the community has led to additional successes for MHCC, including increased fundraising by the MHCC Foundation and innovative academic programming proposed by industry partners. Derr cites the college's new Mechatronics, Medical
Assistant, and app development degrees as examples of programs born out of increased collaboration with local government, state agencies, and business and industry partners.
"My sincere thanks to MHCC and our community for giving me the opportunity to serve as president of the college. This time has been a joy and the most amazing opportunity."
President Derr considers it a blessing that she could return to MHCC more than a decade after working at the college. From 1987 to 2002, she served as a vice president and in other roles at MHCC. During her time away, Derr said she grew as a leader
and developed “experience of value to the institution” while working as a president of North Iowa Area Community College. Upon her return, she set about rebuilding relationships with staff and community members who played integral roles during
her initial tenure at MHCC.
“My sincere thanks to MHCC and our community for giving me the opportunity to serve as president of the college,” says Derr. “This time has been a joy and the most amazing opportunity.”
When asked what's brought her the most joy working at MHCC, Derr responds, without pause: “The students.”
“It's all about the students,” she says. “One of my favorite days is commencement. That's the day we get to celebrate their educational accomplishments. You see the joy in their smiling faces. You hear the cheers from their family and friends who
exude pride for their student. It is a celebration I will always hold close to my heart.”